Canterbury flood: Farmers say damage could have been avoided if council had listened

Mid-Canterbury farmers who bore the brunt of the recent flooding say the significant damage could have been avoided. 

They say decades worth of pleas to the regional council to remove the build-up of shingle in the Ashburton riverbed have been ignored.

Fifty hectares of the Rooney's farm is buried beneath a metre of silt.

The Ashburton river breached its banks right behind their sheds - and they say it's "devastating".

"It's going to take us a year to get over this. We'll probably have to halve our herd," Laurence Rooney tells Newshub.

Which means halving their income.

But Laurence and Phily Rooney believe what should've been halved was the amount of shingle and silt that ended up on their property. 

"This mess was totally avoidable," Laurence says. 

For decades farmers have been lobbying for the copious amount of shingle in the Ashburton River to be removed.

It finally has been - but in the worst possible way. The flooding threw the shingle onto paddocks, turning them into riverbeds. 

Neighbour Darryl Butterick can no longer farm 60 percent of his property.

"The stopbank's been breached here majorly."

Stock is still missing, fences are gone as is the irrigation and there are huge craters left behind. 

But Butterick says the shingle damage is the worst of it. 

The finger's being pointed at Environment Canterbury. 

"We need them to say 'yes we didn't do our job properly, haven't done for a long time we will step up and come to the party'," says Butterick. 

Mid-Canterbury regional councillor Ian Mackenzie says the wheels were in motion to remove shingle.

But the flood beat them to it. 

"In our defence, identified climate change and lack of funding has compromised our ability to maintain flood protection systems," he tells Newshub. 

It was farmers who copped the fallout. 

"We took the brunt for Ashburton here," says Laurence. 

Mackenzie agrees they took one for the team. 

"Where the river broke out and the river spread out that effectively saved the town of Ashburton."

That's why Mackenzie believes there is a moral obligation to help but it comes down to cost so he can't make any promises at this stage. 

Volunteers are already hard at work - a silver lining to the dark clouds that brought the devastation, says Laurence.

"People we didn't even know turned up with tractors and trailers and diggers."

It's much-needed help but a drop in the floodwaters compared to the recovery ahead.